Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, said to be a prison where no one can escape, possibly an imagination fueled by similar movies I have seen, I always imagine Alcatraz to be located somewhere in an extremely isolated place, but in reality it is a mere 2 km away from San Francisco’s mainland.
This tiny island , a basis of so many real and made-up stories, which the name itself is associated with a shiver and fear , for the curious, to step inside the legendary Alcatraz is something that must be done.
I bought my ticket at the Alcatraz Cruises at Pier 33 and one of the lucky ones that was able to secure a ticket same day without prior booking, while I have seen numerous visitors at the Pier 33 booth only to be told that the next available slot will be the following week.
I did explore Alcatraz on my own, walked past the Guardhouse, the Officer’s Club, the Water Tower, The Lighthouse. But seeing only the places does not create any impact or understanding, thus it is a must for Alcatraz visitor to walk with an audio guide specifically inside the Main Cell house and hear real stories from two ex-inmates and correctional officers.
The Main cell house contains four alphabetical cell blocks with at least three tier high. Each cell has a small sink, a toilet, and a sleeping cot, an average cell size of 5 x 9 feet. The cells in Block D though more spacious is the segregation cell, the least popular cell where inmates were confined 24 hours a day.
“Scarface” Al Capone, “Machine Gun” Kelly, “Birdman” Strout , without a doubt are famous names associated with Alcatraz, however, to hear from the point of view of correctional officers, guard staff and their families who lived and worked in the penitentiary somehow lessen the ghostly and eerie perception of the island.